Forsythia

P1010482

For the first time, in a long time, forsythia in bloom.  Granted, nestled in a sunny sheltered south exposure, and still, can you recall the last time you saw those golden yellow flowers, made like a child might draw his first night-time star, in the middle of a prairie April?

I was driving to the boulangerie when those blossoms caught my eye.  Yes, we have one here in our prairie city.  The real deal owned by a real French baker.  The testament to his fine levain loaves, a line up of folks, big and little, out the door and onto a sidewalk bordered by bicycles, baby buggies and scooters.  I smile to myself coming upon the scene, imagining how much more Parisian than here in my own winter weary prairie city.

Taking my place, feeling a bit pressed for time, I acquiesce to the moment and notice in front of me the iridescent wisp of colour in a child’s hair.

“Tell me, how did you catch a rainbow in your hair?”

Her fit and handsome father shares the story of his sister, their aunt – gesturing to his two other daughters a bit further down the street, each with barely-there colour shot through their dark manes – treating them to this bit of feminine whimsy when they visited her in Nelson a month ago.

“Hard pressed to say ‘no’ when she does me the gift of babysitting,“ he shrugs.

“When in Nelson…” I smile in return.

By this time all three sisters huddle in together with us, now perched in the doorway, on the threshold of reaching our morning’s shared destination.

“Do you have children?” he asks.

A quiet “no” and gentle shake of my head.  Inside, I’m surprised he thinks me young enough.  Then again, it might simply be the way I engage with his.

Loaves chosen, bagged and tallied.  His for lunch with family, tomorrow’s brunch with friends.  Mine for tonight’s dinner I’m eager to prepare for my husband and me, to re-create the crostini sampled at last week’s cooking class.

Goodbyes exchanged, together with wishes for a good day.

Driving home, those forsythia again catch my eye as I wonder who else to invite, to share with me my sudden love of this splendid spring?  The fine French baguette and a bottle of good wine?  The heady perfume of purple hyacinth?  The golden glory of those first time in a long time forsythia?  The memory of three young sister-beauties with the colour of spring woven in their dark hair, wishing for a moment they were mine?

The Paradox That is My April

A week or so ago, during an early morning meditation,

I sat

hearing the furnace blow its warmth

as the robin sang his heartsong,

watching snow flakes float and whiten

the new greening grass and purple and saffron crocus,

smelling the pungent perfume of lilies

now wilt and faded with days since gracing Easter’s joy.

 

Today, Friday, the echoing day of my birth,

when on another Friday, six decades past,

a Good Friday,

new life broke through like Cohen’s crack.

 

Sun and Moon dictate Easter’s arrival: the first Sunday following the first ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or after the day of the vernal equinox

a Christian’s most celebrated day

but always foreshadowed by that Friday’s

death and darkness.

 

Regardless of the day on which my birthday falls,

I always feel the pull of my first birth day

primal as the ocean’s tide in response to the Moon

archetypal in symbol, suffering, surrender,

the promise of celebration.

9 - Easter

Born of star dust

from ocean waters

the full moon face of the new born,

then and now.

 

From Ambition to Meaning

“Throughout our lives, transitions require that we ask for help and allow ourselves to yield to forces stronger than our wills or our egos’ desires.  As transitions take place during our later years, a fundamental and primal shift from ambition to meaning occurs.”  
Angeles Arrien, The Second Half of Life

41GyeErgUvL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_That simple phase, those four words, “from ambition to meaning,” would sum up the four days’ interior journey of those who travelled with me at Soul Spark in mid February.  As the starting point for our first circle conversation, where each of us, having crossed paths before, now sat comfortably together on sofas and rocking chairs, with the fieldstone hearth and fire taking its place of honour, offering warmth and solace, this excerpt from Angeles Arrien’s The Second Half of Life became our touchstone.  Regardless of age or stage of life, occupation or endeavor, each of us, host and participant alike, found ourselves delivered to this threshold, whether by ready intention or “no-choice” choice.

I’ve been writing about this threshold for the past few months, initially catalyzed by my experiences at the Self as Source writers’ retreat in early December.  From the dark depths of winter solstice, I recognized the need to listen and tend to what David Whyte calls “the great inside shout of joy,” that new life that we must call our own,  helped into being by our preparation, practice, discipline and allies.  Then, almost a month later, inspired by that master of naming and blessing thresholds, John O’Donohue, I gave deeper consideration to my allies, those beings – human and non-human, animate and inanimate, living or passed – whose shoulders we stand on, whose backs shore up ours, whose energy, image and guidance we call upon, who walk beside us to remind and help us call forth our resiliency, talents, and wisdom.

In between: a straight forward dental procedure reactivated some Bells Palsy symptoms that emerged almost three years ago, and still has me in irritating distress with a “not yet quite right” bite.  An irregular EKG for which cardiac consultation and testing has occurred.  Hearing that several younger colleagues have suffered strokes, heart attacks and brain injuries.  The passing in January of those iconic musician-artists, each in what is now my decade.

What had been ready intention, has now become my no-choice choice of letting go, paring back, or as I said quite spontaneously yesterday to a friend, a necessary “winnowing to essence.”

Angeles Arrien instructs us that when we stand upon a threshold, we must do the inner work of transformation and integration – the treading, turning, twisting and flailing of noticing, releasing and discarding what is no longer necessary or aligned with our essential nature. Noticing its signposts:

  • Work, that while in and of itself deeply satisfies, the preparation and holding for which energetically costs more than can be afforded.
  • Dreams that have silently, surreptitiously slipped to the background of awareness, attention, and need for fulfillment.
  • Tiredness signaling depletion and misalignment.
  • Anxiety and worry that time, at least in this lifetime, is running out.
  • Pressure to keep telling a story that’s no longer relevant, describing a self that no longer feels true.

“Deep in the wintry parts of our minds, we are hardy stock and know there is no such thing as work-free transformation.  We know that we will have to burn to the ground in one way or another, and then sit right in the ashes of who we once thought we were to go on from there.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estes  

On the eve of our inaugural Soul Spark (now to be an annual mid-winter gathering) during meditation, I suddenly asked myself, “Who is this person I am becoming?” this person who:

  • Is a bona fide seeker of God and the transcendent?
  • Meditates regularly?
  • Whispers words of loving kindness throughout the day?
  • Wakes before dawn to listen to an hour of poetry and song?
  • Reads Rumi, Hafez, Teresa of Avila, Hildegard von Bingen, and other mystics?
  • Several years earlier than declared, is walking away from professional work to embrace a simpler, more creative life?

“Who is this person?” for she does not yet seem to be me.

IMG_0004(1)This is threshing. This is the process of becoming, wherein I am unable to answer, “Who am I now?” because I’m releasing myself from the story and illusion of who I think I am, who I have been.

Yet what I can say is there is a bittersweet sister found in the threshold, and her name is grief-relief.  The grief-relief of noticing, releasing and discarding that which had served but does no longer.

To give myself permission to notice, name, and feel this most peculiar grief heals, makes space for, and helps me recognize the edges of to eventually claim this person I am becoming.  It helps me make choices better aligned with and in support of who is emerging.  It helps me become my own ally in service of living out loud that inside shout of joy.

Who Are Your Allies?

“Each life must find its true threshold, that edge where

the individual gift fits the outer hunger and where

the outer gift fits the inner hunger.”

John O’Donohue in Angeles Arrien’s The Second Half of Life

When we are on the cusp of a threshold, making a commitment, finding a new way, it’s helpful practice to reflect on and pay tribute to our allies.  These are the beings – human and non human, animate and inanimate, living or passed – whose shoulders we stand on, whose backs shore up ours, whose energy, image and guidance we call upon, who walk beside us to remind and help us call forth our resiliency, talents, and wisdom.

In December when I participated in my first ever writers’ retreat hosted by StoryCatcher Christina Baldwin and TravelPoet Kristie McLean, at Aldermarsh on Whidbey Island, one of our first acts of creative expression was to create a visual collage in tribute to, and then write about our allies for this endeavor.

P1010138I love collage, particularly when I’m not fixed in my ideas of what I want to create, what images and words I need to find to make the “right” representation.  So that evening, as the heavy grey day gave way unnoticeably to night, with no particular ally in mind, I skimmed through a few magazines, borrowed scissors and glue, tore and cut to create a circle of images and words that I would then fold and keep in my writing journal.  Here is what I wrote, inspired by the words I found:

The Prayer to a Changing Woman

Sifting through ashes of the lightning struck tree

the long trail of water…

A mandala

A labyrinth

A work of art – an intolerable beauty.

 

By that I mean a beauty that does not, will not tolerate.

A beauty that claims the secret canyon of a woman’s body, of my body

In and down

Through and beyond

Into the ground

Up through the sky.

 

Where the true meaning of the sacred and mundane

are captured in the dog’s kiss upon my own lips.

Her solemn eyes gazing at me, into me

beseeching me to understand and appreciate

animal and people together and that everyone (and every being) is

the age of their hearts.

 

And at the centre of this circle

spiralling out, weaving words and images

 

The Garden of Divinity,

a place of solace and strength and surrender.

 

What surprised me – ahhhh, the gift of emergence –  was that our Annie dog appeared as my ally.  She came to us four years ago during a summer of deep upheaval.  I had returned from three months’ travelling to learn my position at the school board, the work I had created and in which I thrived, had been abolished, and that my new “no choice” assignment would become the catalyst for my departure a year later.  Our Lady dog, who for a week was on death’s door during my last trip to Italy, and for whom I prayed at a sacred pilgrimage site of Santuario Santa Rosalia Monte Pellegrino in the mountains of Palermo, Sicily, rallied until my return and then passed mid summer.  Just a few weeks later we received the urgent call, “If you want another dog, you need to get her now,” as his wife’s health was being seriously challenged.  I didn’t want another dog.  I wasn’t ready for a kennel dog who wasn’t house trained.  I didn’t know how our aging Peggy dog would cope.  But we did – ahhhh, the gift of resiliency – and Annie proved to be an attuned, respectful companion to the elder, small but sovereign alpha Peggy until she passed last spring, probably giving her more life and years.  Today, sovereign in her own way, Annie has become my companion, laying beside me as I work in our office, or when I sit in the sanctuary of our living room, reminding me to take time to play and walk with her.

In a month’s time, I will be co-hosting Soul Spark, an intimate retreat for ten men and women, who know this is the time to reflect on and discern wise action to creating a work-life aligned with intention and their heart’s desire.  A time to discover their life’s “true threshold.”  There, I will be an ally for each of them in the space and time we are together, by virtue of creating a safe and respectful space for solitude and companioning, and designing a process that gently invites and inquires into what really matters for them, now.

While we must each walk the path of our own life, it’s good to have allies to walk by our side.  And too, as David Whyte reminds us in his essay on Friendship, it’s good to be an ally, to “have accompanied another for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.”

 

 

An Epiphany of Creation

P1010134

The Goddess’ Cauldron

Into Sedna’s icy seas

I cast wisps of prayer and blessing for this new year.

From her dark depths

cold crystalline shards of unknown shadows

float to the surface,

intrigued and captivated by the phosphorescent luminous.

All now, swirl and churn, mixed with my morning kiss.

Embraced by its heart and heat

All now, melt and merge.

All now, transformed

into wave and mist, cloud and rain

crashing, soaking, washing

shoreline sands, rocky cliffs, silent forests,

skin and scale and fur and feather.

Time will stand still and breathe anew

into this vow of creative surrender.

(Inspired by this clay plate from Newfoundland artist, Peter Sobal, and spontaneous invocation at the Self as Source Writers’ Retreat, December 7, 2015.)

Newfoundland…preambling along

I wrote last time about how my layover in Halifax, en route to a week touring Newfoundland, helped me recognize and claim it as my “heart place” for claiming and crossing thresholds.  Newfoundland, the raison d’etre, my threshold-crossing birthday gift ]to myself, was a remarkable adventure, another one of those realized dreams, the seed of which first planted several years ago as I sat enthralled watching one of several TV commericials from Newfoundland-Labrador Tourism’s campaign Beautiful ads showing rugged coastlines, hikers looking over cliff-faced fjords, the first European settlement in North America, ice bergs, fishing villages with lobster traps, cod stakes, dorries, and the multi-coloured saltbox houses perched on steep rocky landscapes and, too on the urban streets of St. John’s, its capital and North America’s oldest city.  When I last visited Halifax, in the fall of 2012, to attend a movement workshop with one of my Halifax “sisters,” I spoke aloud my wish to visit The Rock one day.

Fast forward to this spring when the Canadian tour company Wild Women Expeditions sent an email announcing one space left in their July departure for their Newfoundland hiking-kayaking-art tour.  Perfect.  I hiked, kayaked once in the ponds outside of Halifax, and love the arts.  Quick negotiations with The Scientist to rejig celebrations for our 35th anniversary, and I was booked.  Then kismet worked on our behalf with space on a mid-June date, even more perfect.

P1000042So with the advice of friends who’ve Perspectives with Panache, 2015visited the island, I flew into St. John’s for a few days, stayed in the historic Rendell-Shea Manor bed and breakfast, to see those iconic “Matchless Paint Company” houses, go to the province’s Craft Council shop and spend a day at The Rooms, the provincial gallery, museum and archives, and where I knew I’d enjoy a delicious meal in their café (a lesson learned travelling in Chicago, Vancouver, and Europe). The weather was perfect, as it poured buckets after I took photos of the houses, walked Duckworth and Water Streets, and headed over to the galleries, passing the Basilica.  I got my delicious lunch – a seafood au gratin with roasted carrots, a smooth chardonnay, and warm sticky toffee pudding and cream for dessert.  And for a bit of star quality, saw Mark Critch, from This Hour Has 22 Minutes, sitting across from me (much smaller in stature and younger than on TV.)  The exhibitions were elegant and evocative: a retrospective of Newfoundland’s renowned Christopher Pratt, and my favourite, “Truth or Myth?,” vignettes from the gallery’s permanent collection, curated in response to questions of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians’ social, cultural and political identity.  I was especially captivated by the corresponding Haiku-like poems by local actor-writer, Andy Jones.

Perspectives with Panache, 2015

From Corner Brook Viewpoint

After a couple of days, I was itching to get on with it, and boarded the provincial DRL bus for the “milk run” day trip across the province to Deer Lake, the tour rendezvous.  Thinking this would be a great way to see the province, I did, even though the landscape was consistent, mile after mile, over ten hours, with spring green leaved trees, sparkling ponds, azure sky and billowy white clouds, interrupted only by the ten or so small town and gas station stops, and the Gander Airport.  I’d been warned that Deer Lake isn’t much to see; fast food and Chinese buffets predominate the Trans Canada and hotels and bed and breakfasts cater to travellers “en route.”  So I arranged with three women on the tour, each of whom was arriving a day early, to share a car rental and drive to Corner Brook for a few hours before meeting the other women and our guides.  (Later, I’d affectionately name us “The Singlets”, in contrast to our companions, “The Quartet” of four close friends, and “The Two Sisters.”)

Perspectives with Panache, 2015

Woody Point, NL with Gros Morne in the background

By mid-Friday afternoon, our group set off, five each in pretty swanky vans driven by our mother-daughter guide-hosts, bound for Unesco World Heritage site, Gros Morne National Park, and the village of Woody Point, where we’d spend the next three days getting to know each other as we hiked, kayaked, visited local art and craft shops and enjoyed fine local food and hospitality.